Imagine that halfway through the menu, one of the ingredients changed its name from “chickpeas” to “garbanzo beans”? Or a product was called “gadget” in your website and “device” in your online store? That might easily confuse your audience and muddle your brand message. Yet this is precisely what might happen in translation. Here are some things authors and content managers can do to preserve their organization’s voice in translation.
Decide on Preferred Terms
Consistency in key words you use in your communications will help you create a recognizable brand message and be precise in your communications.
- Create a list of English key words and, if possible, their definitions.
- Have a qualified translation provider, whether they are in-house or a contractor, document approved translations for these key words and save this list so you can reuse it on any translations in the future.
If you want to talk about driving, have your translation team pick whether they are going to use conducir, manejar, or perhaps even guiar in Spanish.
Decide on Your Tone
It’s good to have a document with some general guidance for your content creators, including translators. This type of document is sometimes called a style guide. Some things you could include are:
- Should any company or product names or slogans be translated? If so, is there an existing translation you want to use?
- Will you be more formal or more familiar in addressing your audience?
- Should any references to your local phone numbers (like 911 for the emergency services) be replaced? With what?
- Should names in hypothetical examples be replaced? If you have a Siobhan as a hypothetical customer, should that name be adapted in translated versions?
Recycle Your Translated Content
Once you have decided on your style and key words and have produced a few translated materials, don’t let all that hard work go to waste! You’ll want any future teams working on your translations to refer back to what was done before them and keep a consistent style in all of your materials. Any of the following things can help your team maintain your voice in translation:
- Glossary of key words, ideally in both languages
- Any style guides
- Any existing target-language (translated) materials
Following these principles will help your translated materials do justice to your carefully crafted English message. Even if you have different people or teams working on your translations, sharing some guidance and existing translations with each of them goes a long way in keeping a high standard for your translated content.